THE KEY MAN....Yuraygir National Park
30 minutes drive north of Coffs harbour will put you in one of the most pristine environments the north coast has to offer. Yuraygir National Park covers a coastal strip 60km long and just 20km wide, from Yamba in the north-south to Red Rock. This is the traditional home of the Gumbaynggirr and Yaegl tribes who for many years lived and ate from these areas. Still a much undeveloped strip of pristine coastline Yuraygir has a diverse range of marine values through to protected flora and fauna.
Access to the park is as easy as driving 49km north of Coffs Harbour,along the Pacific Highway until you reach Mcphillips Road on the right. Follow this graded dirt road for approx. 2km where you will veer right onto Newfoundland road, then veering 1.7km left onto Yellow cutting road, further along at the 3km mark veer left staying on Yellow Cutting Road. As you follow this road to the end, watch for native flowers and look how diverse the north coast rainforest is. You will see cabbage palms in with coastal Banksia, and at the right time of year the iridescent yellow of the wattle will stand out amongst tall gums.
Upon reaching the gate, walk across the timber bridge and to the left you will see ‘’The Keyman’’. Legend has it that a Lithuanian tightrope walker-Jonas Slovenski- hand made this statue in memory to his maker. He came to this forest looking for solitude in the 1960’s and earned himself a reputation as a fearless axeman, mostly because he worked in the nude- wearing nothing but a pair of gumboots. When he wasn’t cutting timber he exercised his balancing skills on cables stretched high above the trees, where if you look carefully you can see some. Local 4wders started hanging old keys on the statue, and so the name stuck.
Retracing your steps back to Newfoundland road, turn left and continue on until you come to a T intersection. By turning left here onto Barcoongere Way it will put you in the direction of Yuraygir National park. The pine forests that surround this park are constantly being logged so travel with your lights on and use caution as you might come across the odd log truck, best thing is to pull to one side and let him pass. Following Barcoongere Way for 1.5km, the road swings around to the right and for the next 5km you will have ocean glimpses, and if lucky you might spot the odd brumby and cattle that call these forests home.
All these pine forests and timber stands are controlled by State Forest, but once you cross the grid, you are now entering Yuraygir National Park, so adhere to all regulations. A further 4.5km will see you at the information boards. The road straight on will take you to a wonderful camping area complete with pit toilets, bbqs and some great shady camping areas. It is possible to walk from these camping spots to pristine beaches along the designated track. Here at the information board’s, large rubbish bins are located for campers to dispose of any rubbish and free firewood is supplied for anyone camping. Turning right at the boards will take you further into Yuraygir towards the coast. This is an ideal spot to lock your hubs into 4wd.
When you reach the start of the sand, National Parks have gone to great lengths by installing a vehicle boardwalk to drive on to minimises the damage that 4wds create here. Along here you might encounter coastal emus, large goannas or see a wide range of sea birds circling for prey. Upon entering the beach, you need to swing to the left, as no vehicles are permitted south from here. Most of the beach has a hard surface but care still must be taken and road rules still apply here. Look out for other beach users, fisherman and kids playing on the beach- the best way is to slow down and enjoy the 2km drive north up the beach. National parks have fenced off several areas to protect the little Tern nesting areas. Here to the left you will see the entrance to the Pebbly Beach camping area. Upon reaching the creek, it should be checked for its depth first- as it can vary in depth. Camping here is first class, wether it be overnight or the maximum 6 week stay. Facilities include pit toilets, designated fire pits and great grassy camping areas. Fees are collected daily by the local ranger if camping, but day visitors are more than welcome. There is no fresh water or firewood available here (firewood can be collected at the information boards), so everything needs to be carried in.
The drive north along the beach is controlled by the tides, so check these before leaving Coffs Harbour. Retracing your steps is simple, turn left at the information boards and follow Barcoongere Way for 17km. This will put you at the Pacific Highway.